The People's Choice
I said I would say something about this year's local election results which led to a Council Chamber where all ninety six councillors were elected under the Labour Party's banner, though one now sits as an independent.
This position is by no means unique in England and Manchester is not the first place it has happened which makes it a little surprising that some people and some media outlets are wrongly representing us as a “one-party state ". North Korea is a one party state, Manchester isn't.
What characterises a one-party state is that if there are elections at all, the only people who can stand are the candidates of the one party, or candidates that have the support of that one party. In Manchester , we have free and fair elections where anybody can stand. Indeed this May, we had candidates from twelve different parties standing plus a couple of independents. Labour won all thirty two seats because that is what the electorate decided, with Labour candidates taking 57% of the vote, four and a half times as many as the next best party, the Greens.
There are also those who argue that a different voting system would give a fairer result. Again when the electorate had, as a result of the Tory/Lib Dem coalition government deal, the opportunity to vote for a new system, AV, they soundly rejected it. However, if AV had been used in Manchester in May, the odds are that Labour would still have won all the seats. I've also applied the unpopular and unfathomable European parliament voting methodology to the votes cast in the local elections treating Wythenshawe as a five member constituency, Withington seven, etc. That system is more proportional but of course breaks the direct link between the voters and the successful candidates, but even in that system Labour would have won twenty five seats, equivalent to seventy five of the Council's ninety six seats, with no other party in double figures.
There are others who blame low turn out. Low turn out is an issue, and from my point of view I would love to see more people voting, because the more voters the stronger the mandate. However there is a very great chance that higher voter turnout would simply have increased the size of Labour majorities, not changed the outcome.
One thing the outcome does do is to place a very big responsibility on all elected Councillors to make sure they not only represent their areas, including those people who voted for other candidates and those who didn't vote at all, but also are seen to be representing their areas. It can't be business as usual in the Council Chamber and the Town Hall committee rooms. The Council does have to look outwards. It has to show it is properly debating the big decisions that affect our citizen’s lives and ensure that our citizens are able to hold us to account. That's the challenge over the coming year.